PHOENIX (AP) — The owners of a suburban Phoenix kennel pleaded not guilty Wednesday to animal cruelty charges stemming from the deaths of 21 dogs this summer.
Green Acre Dog Boarding owners Jesse Todd Hughes and Malesia Maurine Hughes have said the animals died of heat exhaustion June 20 in an 8- by 12-foot room because one dog chewed through the air conditioner's power cord after the caretakers left the facility for the night.
Investigators said they found no proof that a chewed-up wire had cut power to a cooling unit, and a veterinarian said some of the dogs likely suffocated.
Also charged in the case are the business' caretakers — the couple's daughter, Logan Flake, and her husband, Austin, a son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake. The Flakes are scheduled to enter pleas Nov. 13.
The Hugheses were indicted earlier this month by a Maricopa County grand jury on 22 felony counts, seven misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and one felony count of fraudulent schemes. Their next court date is Dec. 17.
"We plan on fighting each and every one of those allegations," said Robert Jarvis, the attorney for the Hugheses. "The case will unfold in the court."
The Flakes were looking after the dogs at the Gilbert boarding facility while the Hugheses were on vacation in Florida, according to court records. The Flakes were indicted on 21 felony counts and seven misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals.
The Flakes reportedly tried to save the animals by hosing and icing them down, but authorities said they didn't call for emergency assistance before the dogs died.
A telephone message left for the Flakes for comment on the case wasn't immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.